Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why My Kids Were Chosen....

Being hundreds of miles away and hearing that my children were part of a group that experienced a drowning was so difficult. Immediately, my mind was filled with "what ifs". What if my kids were causing problems and distracted the ones in charge? What if we weren't in SC, then my children would not have been there adding six more kids to watch? What if my kids wore out the boy who drowned? What if my kids demanded more attention, more food, more watching?

I texted Eleanor from South Carolina and begged her to tell me if any of the kids were involved in this tragedy.

My kids happened to be on a boat at the time. So then I asked, "What if my kids made it so that Tyler couldn't go on the boat? What if my kids had stayed on the beach and let Tyler get on the boat?"

My kids have gone through so many emotions. They felt horrible that they were having fun when it happened. They felt guilty that they were not there to help. They felt helpless that they couldn't go out in the water and help search. They felt anger as they heard the beach-goers grumble about having to clear out of the water. And, they felt despair.

They had just experienced an afternoon of joy and fun and giggles and hot-dogs and laughs. They had spent hours playing in the water, in the sand and having the kind of afternoon kids dream about having! And then, they got to go on a boat ride and get on inner-tubes in the lake.

And then, they saw panic and they saw police. They keep telling me they were being shielded from the family's true emotions, but Eleanor and Harry understood. All they could do was pray. And so...they did.

Eleanor quickly learned a lesson in priorities. She had been moping around about moving. Now, she is grateful that she has her life and her family who loves her.

Harry was sobered about his seizures. There is a possibility that this boy might have had a seizure which led to the drowning. That has affected Harry. And he is grateful how the Lord has healed him from his past seizures, yet concerned that he still feels "off" sometimes. (Note to self: see a neurologist when we move).

George and Lincoln have asked many questions about heaven. They talk a lot about their day with Tyler and then ask me what I think Tyler is doing in heaven.

Isabel and Anna haven't said anything.

And then, we received a precious note from the aunt of Tyler. She is the mom of the girls who were watching my kids. She has been worrying about MY kids! She has been thinking about THEM and wanting to make sure they were OK! She wrote a note to the kids and last night, we gathered the six around the kitchen table to pray for the family and then read the note to them.

Why were my kids chose by God to be there on Tyler's last day? Because...they are kind and they have warm smiles and they accepted Tyler and loved him that day. They played hard with him and enjoyed hot dogs with him. AND...they each KNOW THE LORD. How else could a child deal with this unless they have the ASSURANCE of heaven? All of my kids have talked about how Tyler is perfect now and wouldn't want to come back.

We are doing great. We have had some amazing conversations the past few days about life and love and God. God chose my kids to be part of this...and I will rejoice in that!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life is So Fragile

Joe and I are in Greenville, SC. A few days ago, we accepted a job that will move us from the upper midwest to the south. But that is not what I want to write about tonight.

Today, our dear children had a wonderful day at the lake with an amazing family who has been watching the six while we are away. And today, this amazing family suffered a horrible tragedy. Today, their teenage nephew drowned in the lake.

I am sitting here hundreds of miles away stunned...a bit confused....and deeply saddened by this tragedy. Joe talked to George on the phone, and our son who knows about death all too well had the deepest understanding. Harry is shaken to the core. Eleanor is now in charge on her siblings until we can get home.

All we can do as we sit in our hotel room is to pray. And we all need to know how fragile life is. God designed our lives to be that way...it could all be gone tomorrow for any one of us. We can not put off for tomorrow what we should do today! That means we forgive today. We stop our habitual sinning today. We love without boundaries today. We live meaningful lives...today.

This is the day the Lord has made...I WILL rejoice and be glad it in. I woke up this morning singing this from my childhood. It ran through my mind over and over again as I was reminding myself that rejoicing in the Lord is as act of my will. Even when I don't feel like it, I chose to. Right now, I struggle with rejoicing. Tragedy has struck a wonderful family...

Nehemiah 8: 10 says, "Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” We heard a sermon on this passage a few days ago, and one of the precious daughters of this family sat right next to me. Do not grieve, dear family, for the joy of the Lord is your STRONGHOLD.

Stronghold...a mighty fortress, a strong tower that you can run to! A rock that nothing can move.

Please pray for the Zimmermann family. Lift them up. Cover them with your prayers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gotta Reach for Something...

...or you'll fall for anything.

Joe and I have been going through a tremendous amount of decisions lately. Funny how that happens when you are in your 40s, are unemployed and have six children. We have been devoted to prayer and earnest in seeking godly council. And we feel that God has been answering our prayers by clearly opening doors and clearly shutting others.

We never once thought that we would be changing our trajectory. We had settled into life in the middle of Wisconsin, embracing long, cold winters and tolerating beer brats, cheese heads, and bars on every corner. We had accepted our slimmed down life-style, learning to say no more than we say yes, growing to love my worn out, used furniture simply because we HAVE furniture. We even acquired a taste for Aldi food, appreciated the joy of a soda once and while, and loved when the veggies in the garden became ripe so we could snack on them.

In the meantime, our family grew so close...I mean, really close. We are always together. Some of our favorite times lately have included biking to McDonnald's for .79 dipped cones and to sit in the air conditioned play area while some of the kids played. We have made priority choices and decided instead of a vacation, we would go to a Christian music festival and worship the Lord for an entire day as a family. I still have pictures scrolling through my memory bank of my kids dancing to Mercy Me as the sun went down.

We have taken chances here - we put the kids back into public school. For most, the decision was a good one. For some, that choice has been met with challenges. We also decided to dive head first into Safe Families. The people I have met through this ministry have forever changed my life. Not only have I met amazing people crying out for help, I have also met real-deal Christians who say "yes" to teen moms, 4 children at a time, messy-long haired ADD children and new babies who cry a lot. My phone rings weekly with requests for help....and I take chances because I believe Jesus would have done the same thing.

And...as a result of my last year, I detest political parties and agendas! I am so angry at MY party for not listening to those who need help - OR those who are willing to offer the help simply because it doesn't line up with their political agenda at the moment. We have had a veil lifted from our eyes...and I am either going to run for office some day or...I don't know? I am still certain I could have beaten the current Watertown mayor :)

So it seems God, the almighty one, the sovereign Lord of all has decided to change our trajectory. Why? We have been asking God that for the last month or two? Why God? Haven't we been faithful here? Why did the business fail? Why were we not able to get the law passed? We were busy asking all these questions when God said, "Just say yes to ME."

Certain words of wisdom ring through our heads as we talk out our decisions. Things my father said. Things our pastors have said. And words from our heavenly Father.

We fight being scared. We daily fight against planning waaaaayyy into the future! When we start worrying about school schedules, houses to rent, salaries, braces, ballet lessons...we have to STOP! We have to discipline ourselves to put our hope and our trust in the Lord.

We believe God has a plan for our lives in a new state. We lived near this state 15 years ago - and I struggled! Maybe God is giving me a second chance? Maybe God has a plan for us now - 15 years later -because we are TOTALLY NEW CREATIONS now! Joe is in the final stages of a job search right now...this minute...flying to his destination to meet with the CEO of a major corporation. We have asked God so many times if we are really OK to go back to the corporate world? And again and again, God is saying "YES."

God DID tell Joe this...."Yes, you can go...but be prepared when I call you out of that life again." Maybe THIS is the way to to our dream of serving in missions overseas? We know that wherever we end up, there will be a mission field on our door step and down the street and in the schools and in the urban community. No doubt in our minds that wherever God is moving us, He wants us to find His hurting children and "feed them". So...that is where we will start.

A dear friend from high school sent me this video yesterday and as I watched it I realized this is where Joe and I are right now in our lives. We have decided to live purposeful, meaningful lives. We are scared of what comes with the corporate salary and are so afraid of slipping back into caring about furniture and cars and THINGS. I pray that we never forget about LOVE..and PEOPLE...about being Christ's hands and feet.

We've determined to reach for something to keep us from falling for anything..


Monday, July 18, 2011

First Braids


So...here they are....about 50 box braids and one big french braid :)

Anna was playing in the sand area at our pool with a couple of girls she is friends with. Joe was watching her and listened in as the two friends told Anna how much they loved her hair.



Anna replied with a huge smile on her face, "My mommy did it."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

Letter to the Governor

I am not sure why I feel such a sense of urgency about getting AB30 passed. Maybe it is because we are pretty sure God is moving us on to a new place. Maybe it is because I take the phone calls of moms in need. Maybe it is because I know God shows favor on this ministry - it shares HIS heart for the broken hearted, the fatherless and the desperate.

So, today, I poured out my heart in a letter to the Governor. I don't know if he will even see it. I know enough to know staffers do everything. They get the phone calls and the emails and the letters. They sift through the correspondences and decide who gets through. I pray right now, Lord, please let my email get through!

I keep hearing that we need to focus on the fall. Frankly, I can NOT accept that. I keep telling the legislators if you would just give me a reason WHY you won't bring this to a vote, I could work with that. But continuing to be ignored is infuriating! Where is the justice in focusing on redrawing district lines in order to make sure Republicans maintain certain seats? I am a card-carrying Republican, but seriously, I am disgusted with my party right now! If I could, I would run against them all :)

We shall see what happens. Probably nothing will. But, the church has been watching...and they are disgusted as well. An issue that Christians are ready and willing to get behind, support so much that they are writing emails and making phone calls on a regular basis, is worth taking notice of. We are not standing on the side of the road with pictures of aborted babies, but instead are trying to take part in our democratic process. Yet...we are stalled. And why? I have no idea! No one will tell me why!

OK - I probably know why. AB30 is not that important in the grand scheme of politics. But that is the shame....what do you think God cares more about? Enabling a state to serve the fatherless or redistricting lines? You all know the answer to that. And sadly, government keeps marching on without consulting the Lord.

I am angry. I am not discouraged any more, just angry. Righteous anger. And soon, I will be shaking the dust from my sandals and praying that God raise up the right person to move this forward in WI.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beds


Wanna do something easy that will impact orphan's lives?

Check out the amazing ministry my friend has started to bring beds to her son's orphanage!

Beds 4 Choen's Buddies

We Keep Fighting

The legislative battle for The Safe Families Bill wages on. The senate majority leader, MY senator, called for an Extraordinary session for the week of July 18th to vote on many measures. The Safe Families Bill is not included.

So, we called. And we emailed. And he is not listening.

We are going to encourage people to participate in a day of prayer and fasting on July 18th for hearts to be changed.

I am right on the edge of discouragement. I just wanted to get this one thing done.

This is what is going to be voted on:

EXTRAORDINARY LEGISLATIVE SESSION TO BEGIN ON JULY 19

The Legislature will convene in extraordinary session at 11 a.m., Tuesday, July 19, to consider the following items:

AB-87. TIF Districts (Murtha) Expands the number of tax incremental financing districts that may be designated as distressed or severely distressed.

SB-55. TIFs (Harsdorf) Expands the number of TIF district which may be designated as distressed or severely distressed.

AB-105. Pleasant Prairie (Kerkman) Creates an exception to certain requirements in the creation of or amendment to a TIF district in the Village of Pleasant Prairie.

SB-144. Pleasant Prairie TIF (Wanggaard) Creates an exception to requirements in the creation/amendment to a TIF in the Village of Pleasant Prairie.

AB-197. UC Benefits (Ballweg) Payment of extended unemployment benefits.

SB-147. UC Benefits (Wanggaard) Payment of extended unemployment benefits.

LRB-2265/2. Congressional Redistricting.

LRB-2266/1. Legislative Redistricting.

LRBa1388/1. Senate Amendment 1 to LRB-2266/1, Legislative Redistricting.

LRB-2296/1. Division of municipalities into wards and redistricting of supervisory and aldermanic districts into wards and redistricting of supervisory and aldermanic districts; appointing a panel to hear challenges to the apportionment of a congressional or legislative district; hearing appeals.

Link to legislative redistricting maps:

http://thewheelerreport.com/releases/July11/0708/0708redistricting.pdf


Yes...they are voting on redistricting in order to make some districts "more Republican". Makes me sick that is more important to our Senators than the lives of families in crisis.

But, that's what I have learned over the past year. Politics makes me sick.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Venturing Out

I am giving it a go....I have decided to bite the bullet. I am attempting to work on Anna's hair on my own.

I found this amazing website - see the box to the right. I am sure you can figure out which one.

So, today I did some banding - something very easy and it actually prepares the hair for braiding.



Here is my first hair do for Anna.



I am going to try to do some braids tomorrow...so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We Went Back!


We loved Lifest so much, we went back for more today! We took a family vote, and the 7 votes for going back out scored the 1 vote for staying with our normal Sunday routine. I love that all 6 kids voted to go back!!! Yea God!

So, we sat in the pouring rain and listened to Greg Laurie. His ministry was important to both Joe and I when we first moved to Wisconsin and truly decided to follow Christ. Check him out here.

Yes, you read that correctly. It rained. And rained some more. We sat on our camping chairs and spread a blanket over our heads and listened as Greg preached on the Prodigal Son. As he finished, and invited people to commit their lives to Christ, he asked people to stand if they were making that choice for the first time. It was beautiful to see umbrellas popping up - not knowing who was underneath them, but simply seeing people standing in the rain, holding on to an umbrella, declaring their devotion to Jesus.



The other reason we went is because we LOVE Lincoln Brewster and he was going to lead worship after the sermon! And as the rain continued to pour, the MC announced that the worship was being moved to "the cafe"- which is a tent over gravel. Imagine 20,000 people trying to cram into a tent...all soaking wet. And about ten minutes after cramming into the tent, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Blazing hot! Humidity. Stinky!

But....we worshiped. Hands raised and voices singing loudly.

Despite the rain and the stinky tent it was well worth it!



Once home, Joe and I took a long walk. God had filled us both with tons of ideas of how to serve him, how to follow him, and how to love him. We don't know what these ideas will turn into? Maybe nothing for now. Maybe God was just teaching us that no matter where we go and no matter what we do, we WILL have great opportunities to LOVE and SEEK JUSTICE and DESIRE MERCY.

We prayed as we walked and asked God to continue to guide us...to clearly close a door if it is a place God does not want us to go and to clearly open doors. Thank you to all who are praying for us...believe me...we can feel it! We both said how especially on Sunday mornings, we feel a fresh wind carrying us into the new week. We are anxious to see what comes this week - but content if nothing comes this week. We know God is with us...Emanuel.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lifest, lifest, lifest...oh!

What better way to spend a few days in the summer in Wisconsin when you are faced with no job and the phone calls have stopped coming in than to escape to Lifest and simply worship the Lord?

It didn't matter who was performing, we simply longed to be in the presence of other believers and to just get away from the routine of sitting around the house waiting for emails or phone calls with job offers. Nothing has come yet. And we had to start living off our savings. I am learning that it one thing to talk about the love of Jesus and another to live it out. It is one thing to say that we are trusting the Lord, and another to live it out. It is one thing to say we are devoted followers of Christ, and a completely different thing to actually BE one. Because BEING one means sacrifice, living on the edge, and doing what the world views as crazy. Joe and I are battling this very thing every day....and we pray that God would make it so clear where HE wants to lead us on the next phase of our lives.

At Lifest, I talked to amazing young people who are using their lives to tackle huge issues. I talked to a girl from Appleton about human trafficking for a long time. Then, I sat in a make-shift hut talking to another girl about providing small business loans to people in Ethiopia to battle poverty and injustice. I talked to another girl (is there a pattern here, or what?) who is off to Kenya in 6 months to duplicate a feeding ministry that Katie Davis is doing in other parts of Africa.

I told Eleanor, if I could, I would re-do all my college years. Looking back...what a waste! Too many parties. Way too many bad choices. Too many regrets. Yes, I ended up with a degree that maybe, someday will help me get back into the teaching world...but seriously...what is that degree doing for me today? Eleanor and I talked about Bible college and looked over some information we picked up about a pretty cool school on the west coast. "Oh, daughter...learn from my mistakes."

So Joe and I were inspired and challenged. Someone recently told us that we were living the Crazy Love type of life. We laughed inside and thought, "No...we are not doing enough!" I don't know what God is stirring up inside of us...but He is stirring. I DO know this...wherever we end up, God has brought us there for a purpose and a reason and it's NOT to work hard to buy a nice house and have new cars. It will be an adventure to figure out exactly what is it HE has prepared in advance for us to do!

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

This was one of the first versed I committed to memory as an adult. I was humbled to know that God, the creator of the universe, had actually prepared works for me to do! My job as a follower of Christ is to actually DO those works! Lest anyone think I am a believer of good works getting me into heaven - that is hogwash. I am saved by the grace of Jesus Christ...and my gratitude for that salvation fleshes out in living a life of DOING the things that Christ taught us to do. He did not teach us to simply go to church on Sunday morning and think that was enough. In fact, he chastised the babbling prayers of the pagans, thinking they would be heard because of their many words (Matthew 6:7).

No, Jesus taught us to love our enemies, to pick up our cross daily, to seek justice, to give to the poor, to sit with the sinner, to desire mercy not sacrifice. I have to ask myself if I am doing these things - and many days, I fail miserably. I don't love my enemies - in fact, I hardly love my own son some days. I chose the easy route instead of picking up my cross. I seek self-comfort instead of going out of my way to see justice is done. I don't give because I only have few dollars left in my wallet and I really want a strawberry milkshake. And I wish I could just burn a bull to show the Lord my devotion instead of being merciful to those around me.

As we listened to music and enjoyed the beautiful Wisconsin summer day, we simply sat in the presence of the Lord. There were no big revelations. No neon signs with an arrow saying, "Go this way!'. Instead, we simply sat with God. And worshiped Him.

The night ended with Joe and I and all our children standing on their feet, hands raised, singing
Separated until the veil was torn
The moment that hope was born
and guilt was pardoned once and for all

Captivated but no longer bound by chains
left at an empty grave
the sinner and the sacred resolved

and all of creation sing with me now
lift up your voice and lay your burden down
and all of creation sing with me now
fill up the heavens let his glory resound

Time has faded and we see him face to face

every doubt erased forever we will worship the king

the reason we breathe is to sing of his glory
and for all he has done praise the father praise the son and the spirit in one


and every knee will bow oh and every tongue praise the father praise the son and the spirit in one

and all of creation sing with me now
lift up your voice and lay your burden down
and all of creation sing with me now
fill up the heavens let his glory resound





Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Talk Less...Listen More

I guess it's time for a George update.

Oh...how we continue to struggle.

The bottom line is this child fights for everything. He fights when you tell him he is saying the wrong word. He fights when you tell him he needs to make his bed. He fights when you tell him we are going to the pool in one hour.

And then, he talks and talks and talks and talks.......and then talks some more. He talks with confidence and authority as if he knows everything and we know nothing.

When he asks questions, he tries to trick people or trap them. His questions lead to him making fun of someone.

CHARACTER. HUMILITY.

These are words I use every day with George.

I tell him that the best way for him to learn is to talk less and listen more. But since he can't listen or doesn't listen, he doesn't hear me and so he doesn't get it. He lives in this world where he desires to put his siblings down constantly and wants to be bigger, stronger, better than they are. Everything is still a competition - waking up first has even become his latest way to "beat everyone else." He races to the car, races to finish dinner first and be the first one to get seconds, he races to get the candy thrown out at the parade, he races to the chair because he sees his sister just about to sit down on it...it is never ending.

His siblings put up with so much! They get tired of his words - most of the time they are so foolish and so hate-filled still.

Some days, I still have to battle getting out of bed because I hear George doing something I have asked him 5,674 times not to do. I don't want to spend ALL of my energy parenting George. He takes and takes and takes ALL of me and I have so little left to parent my other children. When it comes to being with the others...I am working on fumes.

Just a few days ago it finally dawned on me that is exactly what George wants...he wants and even demands all of my attention and I think he continues to misbehave simply to continue getting all of my attention. And here is the ugly crux of the matter - because of how rotten he treats me and others, I don't want to spend time with George. But, time with George is exactly what will help him learn how to treat me and others better.

We plod along day after day. We go through the same routine day after day. And I continue to cry out to God to give me love and patience and forgiveness day after day - because I am all tapped out. I still believe this is all worth it...some days are just harder than others.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Voice of God


We had an interesting conversation at the dinner table last night.

Lincoln broke through the usual conversations of "Did you see what Harry did off the diving board?" and "I am so sun-burned...do you know where the aloe is?" to ask, "Mom... Dad...why can't I hear God?"

A little surprised to hear this coming from our 5 year old, we paused a bit and then asked, "Why are you asking?"

"Well...I hear you say that God told you something and I really want to know what God's voice sounds like and I sit quietly and I just don't hear Him. Why can't I hear Him but you can?"

I love, love, love these moments! What joy in parenting comes in the difficult questions about God and faith and following! I freely admit to my kids that I don't have all the answers. For example, George was so confused a few days ago about how God is Jesus, yet is also Jesus' father at the same time. George was getting more and more angry as I tried to explain the unexplainable when Eleanor just interrupted me and said, "George, clearly Mom doesn't know how to explain it because it is just too complicated for all of us. Just believe." He walked away suddenly satisfied.

To answer Lincoln, we shared while the entire family sat around our kitchen table how God does speak to us. Our answer is not important here, but I share this only to rejoice that Lincoln is asking these questions now! Sometimes I daydream about what my children will be like when they grow up...and lately, I have been blessed with some dreams of Lincoln being a pastor. This is probably because he is now sitting with us at church, and has me turn to the scripture being preached on, even though he can't read! He follows along the verse numbers and tries so hard to figure out what these incredibly complicated words of 1 Peter are all about! Then, he just asked me if he could have Harry's old Bible (The Adventure Bible in the NIV reader's edition). When I said yes, he was over the moon! He immediately started grabbing Anna and George, ushering them into the living room where he announced, "We are now going to play church!"

Who knows who my children will be when they grow up?? God does..and I would like to think He has been smiling up in heaven watching Lincoln grow.